Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

THE UNFINISHED OUTREACH VISION*

Adopted by the 117th Annual Convention
of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
San Diego, CA
June, 2006

Background

Rabbi Alexander Schindler's greatest legacy to the Reform Movement and to the Jewish world was the vision of Outreach, which he articulated first to the UAHC Board of Trustees in Houston, in 1978. Almost three decades later, we have seen great progress, yet parts of Rabbi Schindler's vision, now shared by generations of CCAR members, remains unfinished.

Today, many non-Jewish spouses become involved in the activities of the synagogue, offer support to their husbands' or wives' Jewish involvement, attend Jewish worship and, most importantly, commit to raising Jewish children. They take on responsibilities that by any reasonable calculation belong to the Jewish spouse. And very often they do all of this without recognition from either their Jewish family, their Rabbi or their synagogue. For all of these reasons, non-Jewish partners deserve a warm welcome and our profound thanks. A significant number of Reform congregations, and many more CCAR members, have extended their embrace and appreciation to these spouses and parents and have found how powerful it can be.

Even as we thank and applaud these heroes of Jewish life, we must not forget that it is an important mitzvah to assist a potential Jew become a Jew-by-choice. An intermarried family's becoming a fully Jewish family, with two adult Jewish partners, does not denigrate those who find religious truth and practices elsewhere. Yet there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that interest in conversion has waned in some places.

As we must continue making non-Jews feel comfortable and accepted in our congregations, we do not wish to send the message that we do not care if they convert. We must become more proactive in inviting individuals already engaged in synagogue life, who are not practicing another faith, to become part of our covenantal community through formal conversion.

We recognize the need to show support and respect for those who practice another faith tradition but have involved themselves in temple life. However, Rabbis in particular must become more proactive in inviting individuals already engaged in synagogue life, who are not practicing another faith, to become part of our covenantal community through formal conversion.

THEREFORE, THE CENTRAL CONFERENCE OF AMERICAN RABBIS RESOLVES TO:

1. Encourage its members and the communities they serve to express appreciation to non-Jewish spouses who support the Jewish involvement of their family members through formal ceremonies or events of appreciation and/or recognition; and

2. Urge members to perform the mitzvah of keruv by:

  1. Encouraging individuals already involved in synagogue life, and not adhering to another faith, to consider formally embracing the richness of Judaism and our covenantal community through gerut; and
  2. Reaffirming a commitment to public acknowledgement and celebration of conversions, permitting entire congregations and communities to be witnesses of welcome to new members of our religious community.


*This resolution is based on a similar resolution adopted by the Union for Reform Judaism at its 2005 Biennial Convention in Houston, upon recommendation of the President's Message Committee.